Late to the Game: Uncharted 2

by whereibelongsf

Uncharted 2 is frequently listed as one of the best games for the PS3. I love adventure games and I loved the PS2 Tomb Raider reboots, so I was excited to play it. After getting almost all the way through it, I have to say that while it is an incredible game, I found its linearity problematic.

Uncharted 2 follows the exploits of Nathan Drake as he tries to find Shambala. The game is basically a third-person shooter with some acrobatic/climbing elements. My favorite type of gameplay is being able to scale sheer walls and explore ancient ruins ala Tomb Raider or Assassins Creed, and I loved those elements in Uncharted 2.  It is totally thrilling to be climbing icy peaks, jumping from roof top to roof top, or scaling the wall of a crumbling Tibetan temple. It does make me wonder why the ancient Tibetans designed their temples to be so deadly.

The plotting and voice-acting in Uncharted 2 is incredible. It’s like playing an Hollywood action movie. The game is largely built around huge set pieces. You fight your way up a train going through a snowy mountain; you fight a helicopter on the roof of a Tibetan village; you fight a tank through another Tibetan village, etc. The level design is excellent and the game manages to capture the cinematic drama while not resorting to quicktime events. You always feel in control. The shooting and cover mechanics work well, and the shooting is as much fun as the exploration.

However, the price for this carefully scripted adventure is freedom. While there are sometimes multiple ways to tackle an area, you are generally on a set path, going from point a to point b. After playing open world games, this feels really restrictive. I wanted more room to explore and roam around the world. Instead, most checkpoints involve a door closing on Drake so that there is only one path forward.

I like Uncharted 2 and plan on playing the other installments when I get around to finishing this one. However, I don’t think it is the future of videogame storytelling, or at least I hope it isn’t. I appreciate that it has to make sacrifices for the story and the mis-en-scene,  but I think those sacrifices are too much. I’d rather have more freedom and less script.